Gasparas Defies City, Opens Plaza Pot Shop – September 22, 2011

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

I STREET – The Sai Center saga saw an eventful week as proprietor Steven Gasparas was evicted from his longtime lair, moved his cannabis business to a storefront on a Plaza block without a permit, was served a written warning by the City and just kept on buying and selling pot.

But even as the local enforcement drama deepened, the federal Department of Justice may have monkeywrenched Arcata’s entire cannabis regulation scheme.

The Planning Commission has been reviewing the Sai Center’s application for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP), required under the City’s Land Use Code. It was to continue hearings on Gasparas’s application Sept. 27, but that has been postponed due to possible legal complications.

As he fought the Sai Center’s eviction from its 11th and K streets location, Gasparas urgently pleaded for approval of his CUP, but the Planco has continued to take oral and written testimony – mostly negative – on whether or not to allow a cannabis center on a Plaza block.

The night before his Tuesday, Sept. 13 eviction, and though lacking a permit or any immediate prospect of getting one, Gasparas moved to 889 Ninth St. and re-opened the next day.

“That is absolutely a violation and we intend to work with police and the city attorney to make sure he doesn’t operate without a permit,” said Community Development Director Larry Oetker. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s medical marijuana, a U-Haul [rental outlet] or what.”

Friday afternoon, three days after it opened and following discussions among City staff as to how best to proceed, Arcata Police officers served a Notice of Violation on the new Sai Center. Gasparas wasn’t present, but the notice was accepted by an employee and the store remained open.

A history of conflict

Gasparas’ business record in Arcata has been marked by clashes with authority, squabbles with individuals and multiple court appearances.

The Sai Center’s flouting of City law by remaining open is reminiscent of Gasparas’ refusal to close his Sai Om Shree Indian restaurant despite multiple Health Code violations and visits by the county Health Dept., Sheriff’s Office and Arcata Police.

Gasparas maintained that the eatery was not a restaurant, but an amenity to biofeedback customers at what he then called the iCenter, located a few doors away at 11th and K Street. He insisted on a jury trial for the violations, got one, was convicted of three misdemeanors and fined, with three years probation.

Other court skirmishes have involved former employees and the iCenter’s landlord.

Helmut’s living hell

Helmut Remiorz came to the U.S. in 1974 from Frankfurt, Germany following a stint in the Peace Corps. Trained as a chemical engineer and journeyman mechanic, he first went to Berkeley, then accepted a job offer in Arcata. In 1975 he founded German Motors and later sold it in 2004.

He now has time – between clashes with his troublesome tenant – to pursue his passion, restoring old Porsches and Alfa-Romeos. Now 62, the gentle German’s interests include reading classic literature, skiing, bicycling and photography.

But most of his hobbies have been neglected as he fought repeated battles with the intransigent tenant he took on in 2007.

“It’s been four years from hell, I tell you,” Remiorz said, offering a  regretful recap of the period.

The then-iCenter opened in July, 2007, he said, and within hours, Remiorz and Gasparas were at odds. “I made a mistake and I learned it the first week,” Remiorz said.

He said Gasparas had represented the iCenter as a biofeedback business which would “sell a little [cannabis] on the side.”

Gasparas immediately set up a grow inside his rental spot, fumes of which pervaded the building. “In the first day it started – the marijuana smell,” Remiorz recalled. “My tenants were in an uproar.”

Gasparas countered the complaints with some of his own, faulting employees of neighboring businesses for smoking too near doorways. Remiorz said Gasparas retaliated by smoking and cleaning cannabis outside of the neighboring NuGames computer gaming center, frequented by young customers.

Gasparas installed an ineffectual air filtration system, built rooms inside his space, violating his lease, and mildew began to spread from the grow.

Efforts to amicably resolve matters failed. “He wanted to go to court and have a jury trial,” Remiorz said, which could have cost him as much as $20,000. In Nov., 2007, a settlement was worked out between their respective attorneys giving Gasparas three years’ tenancy.

But as that term ran short, Gasparas added a note in the memo line of a rent check to the effect that acceptance of the check constituted a lease extension. But with the previous agreement in hand, Remiorz went ahead and deposited the annotated check.

Come November, 2010, Remiorz said Gasparas refused to budge, claiming that he had been granted a lease extension by the rent check cashing. The two went to court again, hammering out a settlement under which Gasparas would pay more rent and vacate the premises by Aug. 31, 2011, at which point, he assured Remiorz, he would have his CUP.

But he didn’t, and didn’t budge. Remiorz served Gasparas with an eviction notice on Wednesday, Aug. 31. The next day, Gasparas filed for a stay, and he notified Remiorz’s lawyer Friday, Sept. 2 at 2:30 p.m. – the last business day before the three-day Labor Day weekend – of a court hearing set for early the following Tuesday morning. Remiorz saw the timing as a tactic to place him at a disadvantage. “It’s not proper to serve at 2:30 p.m. before a holiday for an 8:30 a.m. court date,” recalled a weary Remiorz. “There was no time to prepare.”

In court, Remiorz said, Judge Tim Cissna gave Gasparas 10 minutes to make his case. “He rattled on, and the more he talked, the more he dug himself into the mud,” Remiorz said. “He told the judge that the contract he [the judge] had signed was invalid.” That didn’t go over well.

Remiorz countered by referring to the previous settlement and relating Gasparas’ multiple lawsuit threats. He said Gasparas had threatened to take him to court over alleged Americans With Disabilities Act and other code violations, a faulty water heater, even an employee’s bladder infection.

Cissna declined the stay, setting Tuesday, Sept. 13 at 9 a.m. as the time when a Sheriff’s deputy would serve a Writ of Possession and a locksmith would change the locks.

Gasparas then offered Remiorz $1,500 more in rent per month and to fix the bullet hole in the Sai Center’s front window if he could remain at the location until Sept. 31.

Remiorz declined. “If I give him another 30 days and he doesn’t get the permit, he’s going to do the same thing,” he said.

On calling a locksmith, he found Gasparas’s infamy unexpectedly helpful in easing the arrangements. “Oh, that guy?” said the locksmith. “Yeah, I’ll be there.”

Monday night move

Last Monday night, Sept. 12, just hours before the eviction, two SUVs – one with a trailer – turned up at the K Street Sai Center. There, with the aid of his parents and some younger helpers, Gasparas and his moving crew shuttled the shop’s furniture and equipment a few blocks east to the new location at Ninth and I streets.

A man who appeared to be standing guard out back as the trucks were unloaded said the “iCenter” – not the Sai Center – was moving in. Asked if it didn’t need a permit to open there, he said, “They got one.”

Happy Helmut

Tuesday morning, Remiorz gleefully swept trash from the gutter outside the vacated K Street Sai Center and accepted congratulations from passersby.

His happiness was tempered when the locksmith opened the place up and took stock of the renovations he’ll have to make. Inside, loose wires dangled from the ceiling, which had been punched through with ventilation holes. The filthy carpet and rickety internal walls will have to be removed.

The fires of irony

The move and lack of a use permit only briefly interrupted business as usual for Gasparas, who was open at the new location the next day. A request for an interview was met with abrupt refusal. “Get off my property,” he told a reporter. “I’m going to add you to the lawsuit.”

The property isn’t Gasparas’s. According to property records, 889 Ninth St. is owned by Kenneth Cook and Dennis and Patricia McDonald (she’s Cook’s sister).

In Sept., 2007, a massive grow house fire at an Alice Avenue rental home caused about $60,000 in damage. It might have been much worse – even tragic for firefighters – had the flames reached cases of loaded butane tanks stacked up in the living room. The flammable gas is used to extract concentrated THC – “hash oil” – from cannabis.

Dennis McDonald, a former Arcata Fire Protection District boardmember, then told the Eye that several other grow houses remained on the block and urged that they be investigated.

Within weeks, he and his partners had rented the ground floor of their building to the Let It Grow hydroponics shop which, among other things, sold supplies used in setting up and maintaining residential cannabis grows. That business later departed, and the space remained unoccupied until last week. Gasparas began renting it two years ago – at the  rate of $4,200 per month – in anticipation of moving the Sai Center there.

During the 2008 Land Use Code hearings, restrictions on cannabis center purchases from grow houses was strenuously opposed by Gasparas, who still openly advertises his willingness to buy and sell the drug from walk-in customers. The City is requiring the Sai Center to provide evidence that these vendors are qualified caregivers allowed to grow under the LUC.

With even meticulously planned grow houses continuing to burst into flames around town, and with two sons now serving as frontline firefighters for Arcata Fire, McDonald was asked about the seeming irony of facilitating a business which could be associated with residential grows.

He pleaded ignorance, saying that he had been out of town. “I want to dig into this a little bit,” he said.

McDonald was puzzled as to why the City would oppose the Sai Center’s new location. “The City wanted him to move closer to the Plaza,” McDonald said. “That’s what we heard.”

From who? “From him,” McDonald replied, referring to Gasparas.

Commission complications

The Sai Center’s fortunes with the Planning Commission have been marked by questions and criticism.

Several Plaza-area businesses have offered written comments urging non-approval on grounds that it is too close to the Plaza, a public park, and other cannabis centers, per LUC proximity stipulations.

Gasparas has countered by inferring preferential treatment for Humboldt Medical Supply (HMS), which gained its CUP after turning in the required operations manual and a satisfactory application within months of the new cannabis regs taking effect.

“You can actually view the whole entire business from sitting in the Plaza,” Gasparas said of HMS at the Aug. 23 Planco meeting. That’s incorrect. Only the portion of the building which houses a martial arts business and a chunk of Rita’s Mexican restaurant is observable from the Plaza. Gasparas also said he had been in business on K Street for five years without complaints from residential neighbors.

Harshing Mello 

Gasparas told the Planco that he was working to have his Redding cannabis cultivation warehouse supply “99 percent” of the Arcata shop’s medicine, but that he needed to retain a couple of “local vendors” to ensure a steady source.

Gasparas said the Redding grow was slow in getting up to capacity, but that he had verbal assurance from Redding Police Chief Peter T. Hansen that it is legal.

Joe Mello, who had a short-lived arrangement to grow for Gasparas at the Redding warehouse, condemned his business practices. He claimed to have lost money on the business dealing with him a year-and-a-half ago.

Mello said Gasparas told him that for a $9,000 investment, Mello could be a gardener in his Redding grow warehouse. “I thought I was renting a spot and would sell him all my product,” Mello said. He said Gasparas promised him $75,000 annual income once production ramped up.

But right away, the arrangement went off the rails. Mello said Gasparas refused to give him either a contract for his services or a key to the warehouse and treated him like some sort of captive laborer. He said he had to wait for someone named “Brandon” to show up to let him in and even to depart the premises. “I had to ask permission to leave,” he said.

Breaking that rule, he said, was his undoing. He said that one day he was unable to reach Gasparas at quitting time. Rather than wait to be let out, he left, locking the warehouse door and gate behind him.

The next day, he said Gasparas walked in and told him, “Get the fuck out of here,” and refused to refund the $9,000 for the abortive venture. Mello said he sued Gasparas, but lacking paperwork, he was awarded just $4,500.

Gasparas told the Planco that Mello was lying, had been “disruptive within the collective,” and that the judge had praised him for his employee policies while awarding Mello the judgment. Mello called Gasparas a liar.

Gasparas attributed employee problems on failure by some to meet his stringent business standards. “You’re not at some store packing boxes,” he said. “You’re dealing with a medical product.”

Fair’s fair

Gasparas offered a mixed message to the Planco. While repeatedly suggesting that HMS had been given advantages in the approval process, he nonetheless lauded the City’s requirements as fair and appropriate.

“We were given extra hurdles,” he said, noting later that, “One hundred percent of the things I’ve had to do are reasonable,” he said. “I consider them all fair.”

He did fault the City for allowing him to change the address on his business license at City Hall’s Finance Dept. window, which he said caused him to place a nearly $10,000 deposit and sign a lease for the new location. He said that the day after getting the lease, the City called to notify him that more requirements would have to be met before he could operate there.

Commissioner Julie Vaissade-Elcock denied favoritism and cautioned Gasparas not to compare his business to HMS.

She said HMS had been the only one to get its application in on time and that its sole LUC issue was proximity to the Plaza, making it relatively easy to waive.

“We’re not playing favorites,” she said.

Oetker is fed up with the accusations as well. Delays in processing CUP apps, he said, had to do with late and incomplete applications. He said his office has been working steadily with the cannabis centers to get complete applications before the Planco.

“At some point in time, somebody has to make a decision,” he said.

Art project

Flyers affixed to the Sai Center’s old location directing customers to the new place were taken down. Thursday night, a man and woman were out front of the K Street building decorating the trailer which had been used in the move with Sharpie marking pens.

The trailer was slathered with slogans, interspersed with cannabis leaves, reading “Grand Opening” “SAI CENTER HAS MOVED,” “Prop 215 Collective” and the center’s new address and phone number. Most of the stringy, spectral lettering was difficult to read from passing cars, if that was the intention.

But maybe not – the woman called it an “art project” and showed a thumbnail sketch of the mural in progress which depicted a logo including a stylized eye. It bore little resemblance to the wispily-lettered full-scale version. One statement was emboldened for readability in a Christmas-like red and green color scheme, though it lacked case consistency. “We Buy and SEll MEDICINE,” it read.

The man involved later visited the Eye office to ask that his face not be shown in any published photo. He said he had been spit on and had garbage thrown at him by passersby during the streetside artistic foray.

Lawyers loom

Though cannabis activists have condemned Arcata’s cannabis regs as invalid, intrusive and possibly unconstitutional, it was pressure from the other side – the federal government, which considers any licensing of cannabis illegal –  that has now thrown Arcata’s system into question.

Two weeks ago, the City of Eureka received a letter from U.S. Northern District Attorney Melinda Haag warning that the city’s pending medical cannabis ordinance would violate federal law. If Eureka violates the Controlled Substances Act by licensing cannabis cultivation, processing and distribution, Haag warned that the city and its officials could face injunctions, civil fines, criminal prosecution and property seizure.

The letter was not sent to Arcata, which already has Land Use Code provisions regulating medical cannabis centers. But the prospect of being held personally liable – possibly even jailed – for enforcing municipal cannabis laws has motivated City staff to suspend the approval process pending direction from the council. The matter has been placed on the council’s Oct. 5 agenda.

“If local jurisdictions issue permits for marijuana operations, planning staff may be prosecuted,” said Larry Oetker, director of Community Development. “From my perspective as a professional planner, my role is to process permits according to the Arcata Municipal Code. Now myself and staff are being intimidated in implementing it.”

He said the core issue is a classic one – jurisdictional clash between local, state and federal government.

Even as it prepares to deal with a possible legal menace from the feds, the City is girding for a possible court tangle with Gasparas.

A special Monday morning City Council meeting to consider purchase of a new playset for Chevret-Vaissade Park was preceded by a closed session over anticipated litigation, possibly the beginning of another legal adventure for Gasparas, this time involving the City.

Afterward, Mayor Susan Ornelas reported that the City would take “appropriate legal action” against the Sai Center for operating without a required permit.

“We’re hoping for voluntary compliance, but I’m not very optimistic that that’s what will happen” said Police Chief Tom Chapman. He said the City had several options, including nuisance abatement, court injunction, even possible criminal prosecution. He noted that the Land Use Code specifies that property owners are subject to civil sanctions as well.

When Eureka’s Hummingbird Healing Center opened without a CUP in 2009, the county obtained a preliminary injunction with Judge Dale Reinholtsen labeling it a “public nuisance.” Its CUP was later approved in February of this year.

The City could go the same route, but given his record of non-compliance, what level of legal intervention would stop Gasparas from continuing to do daily business at 889 Ninth Street is unknown.

The City’s Notice of Violation was also served to the McDonald/Cook Building’s owners Friday, but their Sai Center tenant remained open for business through the North Country Fair Saturday and Sunday. Signs in the center’s window read “Prop. 215 Community Welcome.”


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80 Responses to “Gasparas Defies City, Opens Plaza Pot Shop – September 22, 2011”

  1. Thank you for this detailed report on the Sai Center’s non-compliance with the City of Arcata’s Land Use Code. I especially appreciated the sentiment expressed by Mayor Ornelas–that voluntary compliance by the Sai Center would render potential litigation moot. Cool heads will prevail. Given that ordinances are in place, this matter shouldn’t be considered any different than a rogue book-store, pizza shop or plant nursery that doesn’t meet business license requirements previously established and codified. In every industry there exists entrepreneurs uncomfortable with authority and who ‘don’t play well others.’ I look forward to the City of Arcata’s even-handed, thoughtful and balanced approach to this almost dreary issue of code non-compliance. The only victim in this situation is medicinal cannabis and patient access. Let’s not turn this matter into a ‘cannabis access near the town plaza will ruin Arcata’ story. Afterall, if Barnes Pharmacy were non-compliant with City ordinances, it too would be confronted and brought into line or shuttered. All businesses must abide by rules established by the community via its elected officials. Respectfully submitted, Jackie Wellbaum

  2. Maggie

    As a former member patient of HMS and now the Saicenter, I can tell you that HMS did not get approval of their Conditional Use Permit from Planco or the City council until they were forced to file with the court: a Writ Of Administrative Mandate. A Saicenter staff member told me in September that they have asked the planning commission to vote on their Permit at 3 different meetings and they refused to vote until 9/27. As you know that meeting to vote was cancelled because Community Development has to send the Ordinance back to the City Council to rewrite the ordinance since they are facing the same issues as Eureka in the Federal order that is is illegal to permit grows and collectives.

    Also, I was at the Saicenter to purchase cannabis (for my glaucoma) before they closed and was given a card by a staff member advising me that they would have to close from 9/13 until after the vote by the planning commission on 9/27. If The Planning Commission keeps cancelling meetings and puts off voting until they can get their act together, why should a business be closed and continue to pay pay $4200 per month rent as you said until the City has a process that meets both State and Federal Law?

    As far as I can tell there is no end in sight for this issue and as a 215 patient I would not want to be in limbo as long as the Saicenter, HPRC and THC have been. I saw HPRC appear on live video feed before the Planning Commission in February of this year and they put off the vote for HPrc until the 9/27 meeting(now cancelled).

    why don’t you interview THC and HPRC and see what the City has put them through since 2008?

  3. “As a former member patient of HMS and now the Saicenter, I can tell you that HMS did not get approval of their Conditional Use Permit from Planco or the City council until they were forced to file with the court: a Writ Of Administrative Mandate.”

    True. However, you may be confusing correlation and causation. HMS was the only center to get its application in on time, and thanks to the late Eric Heimstadt, it was impeccably executed. It gave the Planco all the data it needed to make the findings it needed to approve the CUP. That generally goes a long way toward expediting approval.

    Speaking of deceased persons, I dumped your previous comment casting aspersions on LaVina Collenberg, because she is not around to defend herself.

    “A Saicenter staff member told me in September that they have asked the planning commission to vote on their Permit at 3 different meetings and they refused to vote until 9/27.”

    That is true. The Planco has been taking testimony and has not yet discussed it among the commissioners. CUPs generally take several meetings to approve. In fact they always do.

    “If The Planning Commission keeps cancelling meetings and puts off voting until they can get their act together, why should a business be closed and continue to pay pay $4200 per month rent as you said until the City has a process that meets both State and Federal Law?”

    The answer is that it is unlawful for a business to violate the Land Use Code and operate without a Conditional Use Permit if one is required.

    “why don’t you interview THC and HPRC and see what the City has put them through since 2008?”

    I have. HPRC is frustrated but complying with the process. THC had nothing to say.

  4. Stop Bud

    I’d contact the FBI and have them, the Sheriffs, the DEA, and Arcata PD and all together make it known that it won’t be tolerated. That would make it to the national news.

  5. Mark Sailors

    As of 15 minutes ago they were still open. The owner was standing outside eating something a drinking a soda.

    As a business owner that has been forced to jump through countless hoops by the city and had to lay off 6 employees, continuing to pay licensing and insurance while waiting for the city to craft its pedicab ordinance, losing money every day mind you, I find it personally offensive that this guy is being allowed continue unabated, while at the same time kids are being arrested and cited for selling pot on the plaza 100 feet away.

    Now, we all know I believe the city needs to revisit its ordinance, but that does not mean that you flout the law, and spit in the face of the citizens, business owners, city staff, city council, and police department that ALLOW you to run you medical cannabis business.

    Its wrong for Steve to keep the place open, and it’s wrong for the city to not take DRASTIC enforcement action.

  6. Patient

    Sorry not using my real name. Want privacy here. Want to say something.

    When Sai Center looked closed with notice in the window, didn’t stop because I thought something bad happened, a raid? Ran out of Cannabis, thought everything would be okay, started taking the prescription medication my doctor gave me for emergencies. My preventative medication makes my heart hurt, common side effect. Have been medication hangovers the last week. Chest still hurt yesterday.

    Grand daddy purple at new building right now is best. Employee said it would compare with others on their computer record of my medicines. This was a safe product from a good source. Grand daddy works for anyone reading who has brain issue. They were right, this works. Hard to explain the difference between functional and not to people who don’t have chronic neurological condition. Difference is horrible pain or consistent relief. Either feel hopelessly bad or ready to go.

    Sai Center has hours that fit my schedule. Other shops close too early, I can’t make it to them on time. Sai Center stays open until 8pm. If they close, will have to budget to buy more medicine on weekend trips to Arcata to other places because they don’t stay open weekdays. HMS is worst I would never go there, they have bad hours. When I saw Sai Center closed last week I almost cried and was going to drive south to the Mendo place I’ve seen open until 10pm, but I never verified with them and I am unsure if they do a good job. May not have made it if I tried, was already starting to flare up and had to go home.

    Please Arcata people don’t judge too harshly. Steve has always been nice to me and he is helpful to other people like me. I don’t mind the young people in there, I hope they grow up to not have years of misery like me. Sai Center has extended small credit to me and he himself has given me samples of his own medicine, very good medicine.

    If you close Steve down I hope I will still go to him somehow. Maybe Steve can teach me how to grow like he had Hindu Kush before. When Ken Miller first advised me he said to seek a someone with knowledge and Steve has knowledge. People have said bad things about Ken Miller. I want everyone to know that he is a caring soul who saved many people when nobody knew what direction to go. Both Steve and Ken are beloved people on my path to healing.

    Thank you

  7. sid

    GDamn, what a world! I agree with mark sailors!!
    shit, man, never woulda thought it could happen.

  8. So what is your point? Gasparas is nice and convenient for you so he shouldn’t be required to operate by the rules like every other business?

  9. Patient

    Kevin Hoover thank you.

    Arcata, if you have doubts, see yourself this building is good for us. There is a clean bathroom, street is clean, clean parking lot, everyone is helpful. Steve has sincere dedication to his patients. He pays for a building for us. thousands he pays for this building for us without being able to give it to us. He pays for it so we can be better, so we can have the best facility of all. I went there and it is so nice. Please show some compassion.

    sid and Mark Sailors be cool. What is the matter?

  10. Patient

    What are the rules?

  11. Read the story and look up the Land Use Code.

    FYI, testimonials – particularly anonymous ones – are worthless.

  12. Patient

    Please don’t dismiss me. I am still very happy you let me write.

    Cannabis medicine is very private. Rules in Sai Center are no cell phone, no talking about personal matters. Patients are seen by others as a bad thing.

    With the proposition 215, if I interpret right, the city and the business people have no legal right to stop patient access.

  13. Patient

    Only wish to name Steve as my caregiver to keep him in Arcata.

  14. Patient

    Hours are important to patient access. Steve does whatever he can to stay open for us.

  15. His biz is doomed, and soon, unless he gets serious about working WITH people instead of fighting with everyone. He doesn’t seen configured for cooperation, but maybe he will surprise us.

    You might note that all the other centers aren’t having the kinds of problems Gasparas has had over the past few years. They spend a lot less time in court and don’t pick unnecessary fights with people. Coincidence?

    If you and others are telling him he doesn’t need a CUP, you are not helping him make responsible decisions and you are ensuring that the SaiCenter will end.

    And when it does, the number of cannabis centers drops to three by law. You will be able to thank Steve-o and his enablers, such as yourself, for that.

  16. Patient

    You don’t understand. Steve is good with patient healing. Proposition 215 should stop all who disagree when any one patient agrees. Legal rights are on patient side.

    Unfair rules don’t provide access to patients. Steve’s rules are fair, we patients live by them and have gratitude for access to medicine.

    Willing to go on with this computer, may not, my computer access has been more than my welcome already. If not, please, trust you will all defer to compassion and may see that means patients first.

  17. Anonymous testimonials will get you nowhere – fast. We are seeing that happen before our eyes.

    When you and him get serious, look beyond your own personal immediate needs and decide to function cooperatively within a community, that may change. We see no indications of it yet though.

  18. Patient

    Originally went to Jason Browne and he is also a beloved member of my journey.

  19. Patient

    You can’t understand, patients are already shunned. Medicinal Cannabis adds stigma to a condition with stigma. I was referred by a neurologist.

  20. Patient

    Sorry trailing. Steve understands this more than I want to talk about. I would like some place for Steve, even when he said maybe Samoa which would be closer to my apartment. It is at least close to food now.

  21. Patient

    Parking lot now. Understand please, some patients can only tolerate nighttime, during the summer patients with light sensitivity goes to Sai Center.

  22. Patient

    Sai Center become delivery? Have asked and when they said Samoa, was hoping for delivery.

  23. Patient

    Please don’t shun the Sai Center. For some of us we need relaxing atmosphere and beneficial hours to purchase cannabis medicine. When I have been in Sai Center’s new building, I have been very relaxed. This new building is perfect for us patients and we will gladly spend money on allergen-free products at the co-op.

    Please don’t shut down the best place.

  24. From what I see in these various “patients” postings, it’s all about them. Nothing else matters – the rest of the community, other businesses, our democratically enacted laws, nothing. Their views in this matter are limited to their own immediate needs. Not even their long-term needs.

    Maybe the inevitable shutdown will prompt some reconsideration of the value of cooperation. Based on these expressions though, there’s not much cause for optimism.

  25. Patient

    All we want is cooperative medicine. It is a difficult matter. Anything to work out with Steve would be great for us. This new building has a clean bathroom for some of us who need a good facility.

    Land use and conditional use can not oppose California Proposition 215.

  26. Patient

    I would like to stand up for my rights, believe me. Being a person and a patient is difficult.

  27. Patient

    No various, all what I had to say. Me suffering at the mercy of incurable conditions, eagerly treating myself with cannabis. Some people helping me in humanitarian ways, sticking up for them.

  28. Assuming this commenter is really associated with the Sai Center, those of us who have wondered why this business continually operates at the margins of not just the law but logic and its own long-term interests now have some insight into its internal culture. The comments are emotion-, not reality-based. They pretend that this kind of business has no impacts downtown that need management if it is to be a sustainable operation. From experience, we know it will. The “compassion” touted in the comments doesn’t appear to extend beyond the business’s front door to the rest of the community.

    If this business provides you with a valuable service, the way to assist it with long-term survival is to help it comply with the conditions that apply to everyone. Participate in the policymaking process, and not with anonymous testimonials. Show up and problem-solve.

  29. Patient

    All who voted, thank you for Proposition 215. Many a life has been saved by your vote. I am out of time. Thank you again Kevin Hoover for allowing me.

  30. Patient

    We can have reality-based discussion later, share with me your reality.

  31. You could start by reading the Land Use Code, staff reports and public comment on the City’s website. That and the council’s direction is what will guide any decision.

  32. sid

    did the(se)dedicated patients show up at his permit hearings?
    Steve has earned a bad rep in our town. doesn’t look like he’s changed any. go to ANY of the other clubs.your needs will be met. their landlords are NOT trying to evict them for 4 years.

  33. Jack Johnston

    My word, what a frustrating thread to read. Is there something in this “medicine” that causes one to become myopic and incapable of seeing anything beyond one’s own personal interests? The issue here is codes, laws, and policies WE established through our legislative processes in order to preserve the well-being of our community. The popularity of a particular merchant nor demand for a service offered doesn’t exempt a merchant or service provider from following the law. Why is it so difficult to see that here? It’s impossible to have an intelligent, productive conversation about code enforcement if people refuse to address what’s actuall at issue and instead try to derail the conversation onto their own need for pot. Let’s be clear: no one is challenging your need for weed, but there are codes in place that EVERY merchant has to adhere to in our community.

  34. It’s not just cannabis shops. This happens with things like housing developments too.

    Since people generally don’t involve themselves with City government until their interests are in play, whenever a controversial application comes before the Planning Commission, folks pop up to testify as to how nice the applicant is, thinking that will help with a favorable decision.

    Sometimes this is true; sometimes not so much. Either way, it’s nothing the Planco can use in making findings on which to base a decision.

  35. Mark Sailors

    It’s not about the cannabis, it’s about the blatant disregard for the process of doing business in the city. There are a set of rules that we all have to work with as businesses, and if those law are not sufficient then you work with the city manager, city staff , the planco, the city council , and sometimes the police. But the operative phrase here is work with, not spit on.
    If Steve thinks the laws are illegal then he should challenge them in court. I would suggest his would not be the poster child test case you imagine it might be.

  36. Mariellen Jurkovich

    I am the director of the Humboldt Patient Resource Center. We have been operating in Arcata since 1999. In 2005 we received all of our building permits for our present location which was all that was required in Arcata at the time. There was no requirements for a Conditional Use Permit by the City. We are hearing and reading reports that we did not get our Conditional Use Permit Application into the City on time. This is not true. We had it into the City in December, 2008, even though we are in the Coastal Zone and were not included in the CUP process at that time. We are putting together a timeline which will be available to the City Council at their next meeting.

  37. Thanks Mariellen. Can you clarify something regarding the CUP application that you turned in? My question is, was it complete, or did the City come back to you asking for more information? If so, what was the additional data that planning staff requested?

    I’m asking because I’m guessing that will be the City’s response based on previous conversations – that only HMS’s application was complete and ready to present to the Planning Commission.

  38. Mariellen Jurkovich

    Even with HMS, the City came back many times to either have them change something or give better clarification. If people go back and review how long it took HMS to get permitted, they will see that it was not an easy or quick process. HMS had been working on getting their building permits before they were stopped and were required to get a CUP, which was never required before. They could only do this after the Medical Marijuana Guidelines and the zoning ordinances were agreed upon by the Planning Commission and City Council. Because of the lengthy delay, a lawsuit was started between HMS and the City. When the rest of the Collectives were asked to put in CUPs, we just were going off Arcata’s Medical Marijuana Guidelines. We have been working with the City to give them what they ask from us. We feel that we are having a good working relationship with the City. I just wanted to clarify that we were never late with our CUP application, it was as complete at that time as possible, has been updated as required and many positive changes have happened to our business because of it.

  39. Are you confident that the application that HPRC turned in on time would have passed the Planning Commission in its original form?

  40. Mariellen Jurkovich

    The application didn’t pass the first time. Most CUPs do not. Usually, applicants are before the commissioners a few times. Ours is more complicated than HMSs because of the size and relocation of our grow site. HMS told me that they had a hard time because they were the first. I think they will all be a little difficult because we are all different. If we all ran our business the same, it would be easy to look at one CUP and ditto it. I know that HMS was before the Planning Department many times making revisions before they received their CUP, just like the rest of us will be.

  41. I’m aware that HMS and HPRC went before the Planco several times. What I’m getting at is whether your original application was complete or not.

    The point is, when staff and planning commissioners assert that only HMS had its app in on time, they may be saying that that was the only complete application that was turned in. I’ll get clarification on that from them, because they have repeatedly started that only HMS was on time. Maybe they should be more precise.

  42. tra


    I don’t know this Steve guy, but it looks to me like the most likely explanation for what seems, at first blush, to be an irrational decision to re-open at his new location despite lacking a permit, is that he simply made a business decision that he believed he would likely make more money by staying open and dealing with the consequences later than closing down his business entirely until the permit process was complete.

    Perhaps he believes (and maybe he’s right) that the profits he’ll make in the meantime, while the City is deciding how to go about enforcing its rules, will be more than whatever fine they may eventually make him pay. It’s not right, but that sort of decision-making is not exactly uncommon in modern business culture, either. Somtimes fines and penalties are seen as just another “cost of doing business” to be avoided when possible, but accepted as part of the expenses of running the business when that is a cheaper way to go than compliance.

    Plus, since he was evicted from his previous location, he risked losing a good part of his customer base while waiting for the new permit to go through, and that may have been part of the calculus as well.

    Or maybe he’s just so strapped for cash that he simply couldn’t afford to be out of business for weeks or months, while at the same time paying rent on a new location that he couldn’t use. In fact that might be the most likely reason. Otherwise, the question would be, why would he take the chance that in ignoring the law he pisses off the city and as a result never gets his permit and eventually gets shut down, thereby losing more money in the long term. But if he’s out of cash and/or heavily in debt, then his choice may have been either comply with the law and as a result be bankrupted, or skirt the law and (maybe) stay afloat, at least a few more months.

    Of course none of those reasons would actually justify his choice to flaunt the law and open without a permit. But they may help explain that decision.

  43. roger

    Steve has been shady business man for years round here with many even in the propro 215 community. he rips people off period. hes ripped me n alota diff people i know off n many many different ways whether for edibles smoking pipes bubble or green steve is cheap and shadyshady biz will lose ur script and the receipts and pay u nothing. hes bad news a-town get rid of him while u can for real he is super bad news guy!

  44. Ian Ray

    Mariellen Jurkovich, can you provide any examples of beneficial advice the city has given you while working with them?

    Anonymous gossip artists, I think you all understand are wasting your time. A rational person isn’t going to believe either your praise or libel.

  45. Ian Ray

    This story is also interesting considering the situation in Oakland with their cannabis $60,000 permits. I am curious if the city has considered bringing in more revenue with a fee model. Humboldt County is considering fees and I think they are wise or not hastily adopting Arcata’s model.

  46. Agreed, Ian. I let the near-gibberish ee cummingsish comment through as it is representative of so many others.

  47. Mariellen Jurkovich

    To Ian…I believe that the City is trying to approve collectives which will be safe for the community, patients as well as the employees, just like they do with with any business that is trying to set up in Arcata. We have had some good suggestions from the City. One example is that they are going to be doing yearly audits. We became Clean Green Certified, in both our gardening and handling. Clean Green is owned by a lawyer who does third party verification which should be helpful to the City when they go to evaluate us. We also purchased a new software for tracking our products which is superior to our prior software. The City Staff recommended that we move the front entrance of the collective to the back parking area so that we are not so close to neighbors. We have worked with an architect to accomplish this.

    I got onto this site because I just wanted to clear up any misunderstandings that HPRC has been amiss some how in getting our permit in on time, or that it was not completed. We will have a time-line available to the City Council at their next scheduled meeting.

  48. Mark Sailors

    It is illegal for the city to license mega grows at the collectives. The only legal way for a coop or collective to get medicine is from another patient. CUP or not, the city signing off on the mega grows puts each of the members of the city council, the city manager, and anyone on staff that approves this is jeopardy of federal prosecution. We need to obey state law here and not try to rewrite it locally.

  49. But I thought the feds don’t approve of state cannabis law either. Why would adhering to that be any better?


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